Our year 4 students have begun the process of becoming scientists, exploring scientific concepts through experiments and conducting research about how things happen in the real world. We have closely explored Explanation texts and examined the features of explanations, writing to a rubric that included cause and effect language, topic sentences, topic specific language and logical sequencing of ideas. The students viewed some moving diagrams and discussed how quick diagrams, supported by text can help with an explanation. The audience would be the class and the purpose, to clearly communicate a scientific concept that you have become an expert about.
The students planned, rehearsed and recorded ixplain clips to communicate their concept. They are super cute and informative. Take a peek!
Screencast Movie of OneNote Writer’s Portfolio
I’ve heard a great deal about OneNote and how powerful it is, but never really known where to start with mastering OneNote as a learning tool. So this Semester, I worked with some year 4 writers to develop a OneNote Notebook that would chronicle their journeys as writers. The students inserted:
- Examples of inspiring mentor texts
- Reflections (including survey answers) about themselves as writers
- Student work samples in poetry that show the drafting, conferencing and editing process
- Peer feedback
- Videos of personal poetry readings
- Illustrations showing personal responses to poetry
Some particularly powerful aspects of the OneNote Writer’s Portfolio were the annotations and links. Students highlighted and commented on aspects of their work, to demonstrate areas where they had learnt a new skill or grappled with an idea. They then used links within the document to connect examples of learning across time. The OneNote Notebook was a particularly powerful tool for learning, as it allowed the students to tell a story about themselves and their personal learning journey. Students learnt to articulate and reflect upon their learning and to show examples of growth. Next year, we will be using OneNote Writing Portfolios to demonstrate learning in writing across the year.
A Wonder Wall is a wonderful way to stimulate thinking and wondering at the beginning of an inquiry unit. In the past we have often created post-it note Wonder Walls for classroom displays, but then forgotten to return and reflect on our original wonderings. So we tried Padlet, an online collaborative wall.
With Padlet, the students could write their original wonderings on the wall in response to our provocative question. They could then return later and add new insights and information as our inquiries led us to new knowledge and understandings. They could insert pics and links with supporting research. I particularly like Darren’s comment.
“Why do we have gravity? What started gravity? Why do we even need gravity? Why can’t we float? I guess we will never know.”
And later: “I was wrong, we will know what started (sic), as soon as you see that page…”
The class were excited to see posts from a classmate who is traveling in the US this term. She can keep up with our inquiry unit and add to the conversation from across the globe.
A tip if using touch screens, change the layout to a grid format from the start.
Why digital? An avid user of technology in my classroom, this year I have set myself the following challenge. Every time I ask my students to open their beautiful touch screen tablets in our classrooms, I ask myself, “why digital?” What opportunity is this digital experience providing for learning that couldn’t have been done more simply, quicker and cheaply with a bit of paper and pen? The interesting thing is that three years ago, I wouldn’t have allowed myself to ask that question. In my enthusiastic adoption of all things digital (which arose from my own real experiences of ICT successes), I felt that there was something regressive and oh so 20th century about not using tech tools when I could.
Rather than reducing the opportunities for ICT learning in my classroom, this simple shift in thinking has moved my teaching to a place where digital tools are used more powerfully to deepen student learning. And I am using digital tools with my students now more than ever, but in more expansive ways that have helped my students layer and reflect upon their learning, track their own learning and find real and authentic purposes for the amazing thinking and learning that they have achieved. The mental act of asking “why digital?” as I’m ruminating on the next learning journey of my students, is not a block to ICT, but a much needed challenge, to ensure that the amazing tech tools that are now at our disposal are used for greater depths of authentic student learning.
ICT education has matured to the point that teachers now feel comfortable asking themselves “Why digital?”. My personal “why digital?” shift, reflects a wider change in the ways that I have noticed teachers and educational researchers talk about the role of ICT tools in learning. The SAMR model of thinking about digital learning tools (developed by Dr Ruben Puentedura), encourages teachers to continually strive to use tech tools to create learning experiences that allow for greater depth of learning and engagement with authentic learning experiences for students. 21CLD works on a practical level to support teachers to redesign existing lessons using digital tools to help build 21st century learning skills. Michael Fullen’s work with the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning project, is conducting on the ground research into how teachers use digital tools to leverage deep learning for the kids in their classrooms. At a recent conference for Microsoft Innovative Educators, I listened to the discussion around a table of talented, digitally capable teachers and was floored by the deep and reflective thinking as well as rigour that these teachers had applied to their lesson design.
“Why digital?” This forum is designed around that challenging question. My collection will include examples of the amazing work of students and teachers that demonstrate what digital tools have to offer, when you take the time to think deeply about taking student learning to the next level.